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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

IV
Memory and Design

Clergymen and Chickens

[Extract from a lecture On Memory as a Key to the Pheno-
mena of Heredity delivered by Butler at Hie Working Men's
College, Great Ormond Street, on Saturday, 2nd December, 1882.]

WHY, let me ask, should a hen lay an egg which egg can
become a chicken in about three weeks and a full-grown hen
in less than a twelvemonth, while a clergyman and his wife
lay no eggs but give birth to a baby which will take three-
and-twenty years before it can become another clergyman ?
Why should not chickens be born and clergymen be laid and
hatched ? Or why, at any rate, should not the clergyman
be born full grown and in Holy Orders, not to say already
beneficed ? The present arrangement is not convenient, it
is not cheap, it is not free from danger, it is not only not
perfect but is so much the reverse that we could hardly find
words to express our sense of its awkwardness if we could look
upon it with new eyes, or as the cuckoo perhaps observes it.

The explanation usually given is that it is a law of nature
that children should be born as they are, but this is like the
parched pea which St. Anthony set before the devil when he
came to supper with him and of which the devil said that it
was good as far as it went. We want more; we want to
know with what familiar set of facts we are to connect the
one in question which, though in our midst, at present dwells
apart as a mysterious stranger of whose belongings, reason
for coming amongst us, antecedents, and so forth, we believe
ourselves to be ignorant, though we know him by sight and
name and have a fair idea what sort of man he is to deal
with.

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